Because our bodies matter to God—and not just in a moral sense—our rest matters to God, too. So much so, He built it into the rhythms of the universe.
Do you proclaim with the psalmist: “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations” (Psalm 57:8)?
Do you climb out of bed each morning and sing with joy about God’s unfailing love (Psalm 59:16)?
If not, (and for the record, I rarely do), maybe it’s because we are among the one in three Americans who don’t get enough sleep. Seriously.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control declared a new public health crisis: sleep deprivation. Millions are failing night after night to get the recommended seven to nine hours of rest, putting them at increased risk for health problems from anxiety and depression to diabetes and heart disease.
By some estimates, widespread lack of sleep is costing American employers over $100 billion annually “in lost production, medical expenses, and sick leave.” More in-depth research finds that twenty straight hours without sleep is the equivalent of being legally drunk. And sleep specialists are sounding the alarm that “drowsy driving” is just as deadly as drunk driving—and more common.
So what’s behind this epidemic of sleep deprivation? Why are Americans these days so incapable of turning off the lights and going to bed? The answer is in our pockets.
A growing body of research demonstrates that the frequency of light produced by smart phones, laptops and tablets triggers the release of chemicals in our brains that tell us, “It’s time to wake up! Its morning!”
The dreary glow of screens also drains our concentration and creativity. A study in the journal Social Psychology reported that even having a smart phone nearby degraded the quality of subjects’ work and studies, because it reminded them of their online social circles.
So what do we do to counteract this perfect storm of sleep deprivation and tech addiction?
Writing at Motherboard, Kaleigh Rogers describes her radical solution: She banned screens from her home for a full month. No TV, computers, or smart phones. Cold turkey.
Unlike healthy eating and exercise—good habits that take weeks or months to make a difference—Rogers says her tech-free experiment yielded immediate and astonishing results.
The first few days were like a dream, she writes. “We’d come home, put on some music, cook dinner together, and then—unimaginably—we’d sit at the table and eat. After dinner, Stuart would play guitar while I read. Chores were done promptly and without hesitation. It was blissful.”
Okay, that’s all great. But BreakPoint isn’t a self-help program. So what’s all this got to do with a Christian worldview?
Well, let’s go back to the beginning. God created day and He created night. A time to work, and a time to rest. The Sabbath, remember, begins in the evening, and we enter into an earthly rest in anticipation of resting eternally in God’s presence.
Remember too that we’re not pure spirits. We’re embodied spirits. The state of our body affects the state of our spirit. It’s why we avoid drunkenness and bodily immorality. It’s why we try to stay fit.
It’s no wonder then, as Kate Shellnutt writes at Christianity Today, that those who get quality sleep report feeling closer to God and having better faith lives overall.
And also, as Charles Spurgeon said, “God gives us sleep to remind us we are not Him.” We have limits. He doesn’t. We lie down at night trusting in God’s care, open to Him speaking to us, trusting him to revive these earthen vessels of ours in the morning—ready once again to join with God in His work to restore all thing in Jesus.
Now I’m not saying give up your cell phone or Facebook (especially if you read BreakPoint on them). But I am saying don’t let them deprive you of God’s gift of sleep, and in turn all the personal interaction, productivity, creativity, and especially spiritual vitality that make us fully human as God intended.
(This commentary originally aired February 22, 2017.)
Your Body, Your Spirit, and a Good Night’s Sleep: Why Rest Matters
As John said, God meant for us to experience refreshment and rejuvenation in body and spirit through rest. For more research on the benefits of a good night’s sleep, check out the resources linked below.
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